Introducing complementary foods to American infants: A national health and nutrition survey

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that many infants were introduced to complementary foods – anything other than breast milk or formula – earlier than recommended. The study also found that despite a broader definition of complementary foods, the prevalence of early introduction in this nationally representative sample was lower compared with previous studies that included only solid foods.

  • The researchers conducted an analysis of the 2009-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data as part of the study.
  • The study’s cohort was composed of 1,482 children aged six months to 36 months.
  • The scientists used logistic regression to assess the timing and prevalence estimates of the first introduction to complementary foods.
  • The findings showed that 16.3 percent of U.S. infants were introduced to complementary foods as early as four months of age, while 38.3 percent were introduced at four to six months.
  • The results also revealed that 32.5 percent were introduced at six to seven months of age, while 12.9 percent were introduced at beyond seven months.
  • Data from unadjusted analysis showed that early introduction to complementary foods varied by breastfeeding status, race, maternal age and participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
  • However, data from adjusted analysis indicated that only breastfeeding status remained a significant factor in early introduction.
  • According to the results, infants who never breastfed or stopped breastfeeding before four months of age were more likely to experience early complementary food introduction compared with those who continued breastfeeding.

The researchers highlighted the need for strategies in order to boost adherence to infant feeding guidelines among caregivers.

Journal reference: 

Chloe M. Barrera, Chloe M. Barrera, Heather C. Hamner, Cria G. Perrine, Kelley S. Scanlon. TIMING OF INTRODUCTION OF COMPLEMENTARY FOODS TO US INFANTS, NATIONAL HEALTH AND NUTRITION EXAMINATION SURVEY 2009-2014. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2018; DOI:

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